United Airlines just paid a $10 million deposit for 100 Archer Aviation "Midnight" flying taxis.
Archer says the fully-electric flying taxi has a top speed of 150 mph and a range of 60 miles.
United wants to ferry passengers short distances between nearby airports and downtown urban areas.
United Airlines says it wants to give passengers a new way of hopping short distances between airports and downtown urban areas.
Archer Aviation announced Wednesday that United had paid a $10 million pre-delivery deposit for 100 of its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) craft.
Source: Archer Aviation
In February 2021, United agreed to order up to 200 production eVTOLs from Archer.
Archer is one of several startups developing eVTOLs to function as flying taxis. The Federal Aviation Administration says it expects to certify some eVTOLs by 2024.
A spokesperson for Archer told Insider the firm won't be unveiling the Midnight until later this year. However, they said some of the design principles will be the same as, Maker, which it has been flight-testing since December 2021.
Midnight would be able to transport four passengers and a pilot. Maker, by comparison, is a two-seater.
The craft will be able to travel distances of up 60 miles and reach speeds of up 150mph. It will have 12 rotors, six of which can tilt, enabling the craft to take off and land vertically.
A spokesperson for United told Insider it anticipated its flying taxis would enter service "by the middle of the decade." They would be used to transport passengers from "urban downtown areas to airports," the spokesperson added.
The price per flight would initially be comparable to Uber's "Black" service, Michael Leskinen, President of United Airlines Ventures, told The WSJ. It costs around $150 for an Uber Black ride between United's hub at Newark Liberty International Airport and central Manhattan.
The flying taxis could "change how United customers experience comfort, convenience, and efficiency during their commutes within cities," Leskinen said.
Airlines are under pressure to reduce carbon emissions and see electric flying taxis as a means to that end.
United is the latest among major airlines to invest in eVTOL technology. American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic have ordered eVTOLs made by Vertical Aerospace. JetBlue is an investor in Joby Aviation, another manufacturer.
eVTOL technology still has hurdles to clear. Flying at low levels in densely populated areas will require regulators to establish new traffic management systems, for one.
Further, new infrastructure will be required to support a widespread eVTOL rollout — which is why companies like Skyports are working to develop networks of so-called "vertiports."
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